Tonight the two presidential candidates take the stage in Colorado at the University of Denver for the first of four debates, with their first showdown focusing on domestic policy. Will veterans’ issues be a topic? We certainly hope so.
The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle explores that very question today, offering a quick round-up of key veterans issues in this year’s election environment:
Veterans face an increasing backlog in service claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs, 6.6 percent unemployment and a suicide rate of 18 deaths per day. According to a report from the VA inspector general in April, only 49 percent of veterans seeking mental evaluations received treatment within the recommended 14 days. The average wait time was 50 days.
The report might also have mentioned high unemployment among veterans (10.9 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan vets as of last month); waste and inefficiency in the VA including overpayments and profligate spending on training conferences for bureaucrats; and the national scandal of declining military voting, which looks to be at record lows this year.
The Chronicle quotes one veterans’ advocate who emphasizes that veterans are looking for “a leader that can make the executive branch work with the House and Senate.” Good point—working together has not been a strong suit for either party in Washington in recent years.
And of course, a key policy issue we’ll be watching for during the debate is the question of how the candidates intend to tackle the looming budget cuts under sequestration, which is just three months away.
In case you missed it, I wrote yesterday in U.S. News and World Report about questions that the veterans community would like to see answered in a debate, based on your feedback. You can submit your question over at our “Debate Sound-Off” page
Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. Hegseth is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard, and has served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.